What happens when you let 7th graders lead congregational social justice policy? Progress.

June 5, 2018


At the annual meeting of Temple Emanuel of Kensington, Maryland, the temple's 7th grade religious school class introduced a resolution on gun violence prevention. The students had researched, debated, and drafted the resolution, and stood before the congregation's adult leadership to present their conclusion: that Temple Emanuel needed to adopt a resolution on gun violence prevention, and the congregation needed to follow the leadership of students. The result? The resolution was adopted unanimously. 

Aaron Northern, one of the student leaders, said of the process:

"The issue of gun violence is important to seventh graders for many reasons. We are tired of hearing about violent crimes and it can make us feel unsafe. We need to stop this madness. Shootings should not still be happening in the United States. Some politicians are doing nothing to help it even though it is a horrible problem. As seventh graders, we feel the need to help address gun violence and we have the means necessary to do it. We can sign petitions, send letters to Congress, and educate people about the problem. We want to contribute to ending this once and for all.

In addition, this connects with Jewish heritage and values like not hurting others or the commandment you shall not kill. Personally, this is important to me because it can make people scared to do regular things as simple as going to school and I don't want that, no one should feel unsafe at a place like a school."

Read the full resolution: 

Temple Emanuel 7th Grade Resolution on Measures to Reduce Gun Violence

Motivated by the Jewish value pikuach nefesh (the saving of life) and the desire to improve the quality of life in our communities, and end the epidemic of mass shootings plaguing our nation, seventh grade students in the Religious School at Temple Emanuel in Kensington, Maryland, hereby proclaim the following resolution on gun violence:

1. Whereas, our tradition obligates us to speak out when we see society or individuals making terrible mistakes;
2. Whereas, Leviticus 19:16 commands that “one should not sit idly by when our neighbors’ blood is shed”;
3. Whereas our tradition (Sanhedrin 4:5) teaches, “Whoever destroys a single life is considered by Scripture to have destroyed the whole world, and whoever saves a single life is considered by Scripture to have saved the whole world”;
4. Whereas, 96 Americans––including 7 children and teens––are killed by guns on an average day;
5. Whereas over 30,000 people are killed by guns each year in the United States;
6. Whereas, after the assault rifle ban ended in 2004, mass shootings in the United States have become much more prevalent and normalized, which in turn can lead to even more shootings;
7. Whereas, it is far too easy to acquire semi-automatic rifles, and better background checks would help keep guns out of the hands of irresponsible owners; and
8. Whereas, we know that human brain development occurs over many years up to the age of 25, leaving some older adolescents and young adults less able to control impulses, exercise judgment, and overcome the allure of violence.

Therefore, be it resolved that lawmakers in the United States adopt legislation in 2018 to:

1. Increase age limits for the civilian purchase of firearms to 25;
2. Prohibit the sale of semi-automatic rifles as weapons of war that do not have a place in civilian life;
3. Improve the background check system for purchasers so that those who should not be able to purchase a gun will have to submit to a background check and that such background check will accurately prevent those people from purchasing a gun; and
4. Extend restrictions like California’s for anyone with a violent conviction of any kind to not have the ability to purchase a gun for at least 10 years.

We as 7th graders of Temple Emanuel have a voice in this issue because we are the next generation and we thank you for your consideration of how we could affect this epidemic.

Lead by our 7th graders, Temple Emanuel of Kensington Maryland voted that our entire congregation join in this resolution. Approved at the Annnual Membership Meeting, May 13, 2018.

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